Connecting with Customers

Tips on how to make a connection when interacting with a customer in person.

By Dulce Gonell-Holderby, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide

The word, “connect,” means to relate, associate, link, or join to one another. In the customer service world, it means to establish rapport or foster a relationship.

So how do we go about making these connections? How do we know if we have done it right the first time? How do we know if it is working?

I personally appreciate a personal touch when interacting with a service provider of any type. When someone reaches out to me in a personal manner, I feel as though they are connecting. Don’t you? Others may just go with a sense of liking—if they like you, they continue to use your services or buy your products. People will do business with the people they know, like, and trust. A person shopping will even spend more, if he or she feels the level of service is better than average and if he or she truly feels that connection.

Here are some tips on how to make a connection when interacting with a customer in person:

  • Eye contact: It is imperative that we look people in the eye. This courtesy helps to establish trust in the other person and assist the customer in trusting us.
  • Smile: Something that is rare to find these days. We have become so distracted in our own little worlds. We focus on our electronic devices, and we seldom smile and greet one another by displaying happiness, so it appears we are not interested in any interaction. Practice smiling all the time.
  • Open body language: Notice how your body is speaking to others. Are you open or closed? Are you inviting people to you or pushing them away? If you are in a setting that is visible to customers, never fold your arms, slouch, or lean against the counter or wall. Always be ready for interaction. Lean forward, smile, and engage your customers.
  • Upbeat greeting: Again, what does your voice say to your customers? Is there energy in the way you speak or are you speaking quietly, with no energy, and they hear only a mumbling sound? Inflect your voice and be genuine. How would you speak to a friend you haven’t seen in five years?
  • Introduce yourself: Proudly tell people who you are, ask for the customer’s name, and repeat it back. When you say customers’ names, you are saying the most important words they like to hear. People love to hear their name and they want to know who is assisting them. If you do not make it personal, they could feel as if they are being processed, not serviced. The connection to your customer on a personal level portrays that you care about them and their experience.

Another area that can help you become more efficient, and to better connect with your customer, is to ask questions. By asking the right questions, you will be able to fulfill their needs. Know your customer!

Actively listen when your customers speak. It may be a good idea to take written notes while talking with your customers, and make sure you pay close attention to their body language. Know the signs so that you can interpret what their body language is portraying. Is the customer happy, angry, sad, mad, or glad? Where are they emotionally? This could be a clue to assisting them and giving them legendary service…but only if you notice and act on this information.

I recently visited a restaurant for the first time. A young waitress approached my table, greeted me with a smile, and proceeded to introduce herself. I’ll call her Amanda for the purpose of this story. Amanda asked me if I had dined at this restaurant before. I said, “No,” and she instantly became excited and said, “Welcome to the XYZ Restaurant! Let me tell you a little bit about us.”

Her excitement was refreshing and quite original! She took my drink order, returned soon to point out some of her favorite items on the menu, and then gave me time to decide. As she took my order, she re-enforced that I had made an excellent meal choice. Amanda smiled as she served me, always made eye contact, and made me feel extremely valued—all this created a relaxing atmosphere during my dining experience.

The food was good, but what made the experience memorable was Amanda. I will go back to that restaurant, and guess who I will ask for?

Her connection to me created loyalty and trust, which is a benefit for her or any employer. When you connect with customers, they will recommend your business and/or services to others, which, in turn, will increase revenue.

Leaders, you must lead by example so your team will imitate these connecting behaviors. It’s important to ensure that all staff members are on board. Once the customer begins to experience memorable moments, feedback will become more positive and others will experience the connection effects.

So, next time you are interacting with a customer, ask yourself, “Am I connecting? Am I servicing this person in a memorable way? Or am I just going through the motions?”

Dulce Gonell-Holderby is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.